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There are several types of perches, and each bird should have more than one type in his or her cage. The perches should be made of different material and thickness so that the bird's feet get the proper exercise. All perches should be appropriate for the size of bird. The bird's foot should fit comfortably around a perch. A perch should not be so small that the toes wrap all the way around and touch each other, nor should it be so large that the bird's feet are flat against it.
Birdcages may come with dowels made of hard wood. These come in different thickness. Now, there are alternatives. The first is using natural branches. Manzanita branches, which come with many cages, can be found at pet stores. However, any branch made of wood that is non-toxic to birds will also work. Before you go outside and start chopping down trees, be sure they have not been sprayed with any kind of toxic pesticide.
The advantages of tree branches are that the branches are different widths that are good for bird's feet. Branches can also be peeled, chewed up, and generally destroyed, which is also good for the bird.
Rope perches give the bird different widths and a different feel. Make sure that you cut off any frayed pieces of rope so that the bird doesn't get his or her nails caught.
There are special perches to trim nails. They are made of concrete, clay, and other materials. While they do a good job of trimming nails, they are not very comfortable for the bottom of the bird's feet for long periods of time. However, keeping one in a cage is a good idea, as long as the bird has other perches to sit on.
There are many types of perches on the market. When choosing perches, consider what birds perch on in the wild. They spend most of their time perched in trees on branches. Choose perches that best resemble natural branches. Better yet, use natural branches.
If you are considering sandpaper perches or PVC perches then think about this. You stand barefoot all day on sandpaper or PVC pipe and see how your feet feel at the end of the day. Both of these perches are poor choices for your bird.
Natural tree branches are best. Your bird will enjoy chewing the bark off of the branch. Make sure you choose branches from safe trees and trees that have not been treated. It is best to ask your avian vet which trees are safe to use.
Birds that spend years perching on the same size perch can develop arthritis. It is best to have two different thickness and size perches in the cage so your bird can exercise his or her feet. Every so often change those perches. You can use one size where your bird's front toes do not quite touch his back toes when he is perched on the branch. The second perch can be 3 times bigger in diameter. The branch can be a little crooked and even have knots in it. This will exercise your bird's feet even more.
If you want a loving pet then always consider his or her feelings, wants, and needs. You owe it to your pet to provide him or her with the best home possible.
Reprinted with permission by Dotty Schira
of Bird Placement Program Parrot Refuge